Twigs and Bones

When I walk among the trees,

I drink in the rays of light

that peek through the leaves

and my feet crunch the “dead” things

but they are not lifeless

see here?

insects march and work

fungus and lichen exchange food

the twigs lie in wait

to service fires and soil

and you are not dead – never were –

your spirit lives on in everyone you ever met


Twigs – Drawing Practice


Death as a Teacher

o0ta3hn-thc-jakub-kriz.jpgFor something that affects each of us without fail, the subject of death remains taboo in our culture. Why?

2016 was rife with “surprise” celebrity deaths: Rickman, Bowie, Prince, Fisher and so many more. It’s sad to lose people we admire and love.

Yet, death can be the best teacher. It reminds us that life is, in the end, pretty short. It can clarify values pretty quickly. Six and half years ago, I was told by my doctor that I had cancer. I was fortunate – it was early stage I breast cancer – and my prognosis was very good. But I was 41 and not expecting that diagnosis at all. My life got crystal clear: Family and friends were priority. I realized that my job – teaching – was something I truly valued and I was grateful for it.

As I walked out of the hospital to go home to recover from my radical mastectomy, the air was crisp, the sun shone brightly and I noticed practically every blade of grass of the hospital lawn. I felt so alive!

Realizing that we don’t have much time gives us urgency. Don’t waste a day complaining. Don’t be negative. Live in the light of positivity and gratitude. Work towards your dreams. You might not have much time.




Notice More

I just saw an old interview with Michael Landon. I was a HUGE fan of the Little House on the Prairie shows and I also liked Bonanza. When Landon died of cancer, the world was shocked. He announced his pancreatic cancer diagnosis and was dead less than three months later.

Something he said in his video keeps coming back to me. He said that knowing the end was near – with certainty – he “noticed” things more…about his loved ones and his life. I remember when I was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago – although not any where as serious as Landon’s diagnosis – I was in shock and everything important in my life MAGNIFIED and irrelevant things fell to the wayside. In a way, I never felt more alive.

Since then, I’ve noticed things a little less again. I’ve gotten comfortable and I am aware of this digression.

My hope is that people will have this “awakening” long before a diagnosis. What is really important to you? WHO is important? Notice things more. Slow down.

Live like you’re going to die.



What To Do in Case of a Tragedy

Chris, our neighbor across the street, and my husband were playing whiffle ball at 5pm on Memorial Day. Less than twelve hours later, Chris would shoot his wife and a stranger with his rifle while on a cocaine binge.

Through a series of clues (helicopters flying over head, freeway closing, news reports and three patrol cars in their driveway), we realized what happened. Willey wanted to knock on their door and let the three boys know we were there for them. Their mother was gone and their father was in custody. Were there any family members around for them? We didn’t know. But it felt too soon to “bother them”. A police officer stayed most of the day at their house and we took solace in that.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when a news truck came to our cul-de-sac and knocked on all of our doors for interviews, just twelve hours after the crime. And I was mystified at the lack of visitors – no friends? No family?

Should we go and check on them? No, I thought. They would not want to see anyone right now. And what would we say? I was afraid to say the wrong thing. Maybe in a week…

But this morning, we spotted the two older boys in their open garage. One just graduated from high school, the other is a few years older. We walked over and wordlessly hugged them, all four of us crying. They moved in a few months ago and I had only spoken to their mother a handful of times. Each time, she flashed a huge smile and stopped to talk in a way so few people do these days: with full presence. She spoke with a kind voice and affectionate eyes.

Willey said, “We want you to know we are here for you. If you need ANYTHING, do not hesitate to let us know. Anything.” Tearfully, they expressed their gratitude.

“Up until now, everyone who has called us or come to our door wants to know what happened. They want to know for their own sake. So it means a lot that you say that.” I did not realize that insurance companies, leasing agents, creditors and news organizations land like vultures on a house of survivors. When they need comfort and love the most, it’s the last thing they get.

In the wake of the ever increasing gun violence in our country (there was a murder-homicide on the UCLA campus today), it will be more and more important for us all to retain our humanity. Don’t be numb to it. Go over there. Hold them tight and express compassion.